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13 Poetry Books To Sneak Into Your Families Stockings This Christmas

Latinx poetry is passionate, proud, and provocative and for the holiday season, it’s also the perfect gift. The beauty of poetry is that there’s something for everyone and this list is a mix of the best Latinx poems for a multitude of experiences. From folklore to love to family and roots, there’s a poet out there that’s covered it. Here are 13 of the best collections of poems by some of the most acclaimed and empowered poets in the game.

“Loose Woman” by Sandra Cisneros

Instagram @officialsandracisneros

Beloved Mexican writer/poet Sandra Cisneros released this collection in 1995 and it still holds up today. She doesn’t shy away from the erotic or the downright graphic writing in a candid and reflective style. You can expect explicit language and an all-around IDGAF attitude in these poems from one of the fiercest Chicana writers.

Buy it here.

“Virgin” by Analicia Sotelo

Instagram @analiciasotelo

“Virgin” is Analicia Sotelo’s award-winning imaginative debut that fuses autobiography with mythology while tackling aspects of femininity. From the young girl who is hopelessly in love to a modern-day Ariadne with a diverse mix in between, the stories illustrate a multitude of sentiments that women experience at different stages of life and love. Throughout the collection, she refers to folklore, history and even cuisine to deliver her insights on the ways of women.

Buy it here.

“Corazon” by Yesika Salgado

Instagram @yesikastarr

Beloved poet and social media queen Yesika Salgado is known for her raw honesty and “Corazon” exhibits that vulnerability in relation to love. From deep love to heartbreak, Salgado feels it all and lets her heart spill over onto the pages so that you feel the truth in her words. She released a follow up to “Corazon” called “Tesoro” that revolves around similar themes on love particularly the idea of surviving heartbreak. Learn more about “Tesoro” by reading FIERCE’s interview with Salgado.

Buy it here.

“Migrare Mutare” by Rossy Evelin Lima

Instagram @gladytas

Rossy Evelin Lima is an international award-winning Mexican poet and “Migrare Mutare” is her third poetry book published in 2017. She grew up in Veracruz and at the age of 13 emigrated to the U.S. and this collection chronicles her evolution and acclimation as an immigrant. The bilingual collection has been praised for its depiction of the modern-day immigrant.

Buy it here.

“Nostalgia And Borders” by Sonia Guiñansaca

Instagram @thesoniag

“Nostgalgia & Borders” is a chapbook by queer migrant poet Sonia Guiñansaca that paints a vivid image of the migrant experience. Born in Ecuador, she discusses the shift from undocumented to documented and migrant rights.  This is the third reprint of the book and it includes 18 poems.

Buy it here.

“peluda” by Melissa Lozada-Oliva

Instagram @ellomelissa

Melissa Lozada-Oliva went viral with her spoken word poems like “My Spanish” and her poetry collection “peluda” is just as captivating. The book is an exploration of femininity specifically regarding body hair while also touching on family, immigration, Latinidad and class. She’s funny, self-deprecating, blunt, and unapologetically confident, drawing the reader in with her powerful words just as well as she does during her performances on stage. Learn more about her and other talented Guatemalan writers by checking out our roundup.

Buy it here.

“Love, and you” by Gretchen Gomez

Instagram @chicnerdreads

Anyone who has ever been in a toxic relationship will appreciate this achingly honest collection by Boricua poet Gretchen Gomez. In 142 pages she takes you through the devastating lows in the midst of the turmoil of getting out of an unhealthy relationship to the highs of finding self-love. Learn more about her follow-up “Welcome to Ghost Town” by reading Fierce’s interview with Gomez.

Buy it here.

“The Verging Cities” by Natalie Scenters-Zapico

Twitter @nascenters

This debut collection from Natalie Scenter-Zapico straddles the border between sister cities El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. The poems revolve around the drug war violence, border patrol agents, undocumented immigrants, and the trauma of the residents.  Published in 2015, the book has won several awards and her second publication “Lima :: Limón” is set to be released in 2019.

Buy it here.

“Bright Dead Things” by Ada Limón

Twitter @adalimon

In “Bright Dead Things”, Ada Limón examines the formative  moments in life that bring both happiness and heartbreak.  Limón delves into the identity-building experiences as she moves from New York to rural Kentucky including falling in love and losing a beloved parent. Released in 2015, the book was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Buy it here.

“Karankawa” by Iliana Rocha

Twitter @la_ilianarocha

Iliana Rocha’s debut collection “Karankawa” delves into personal histories and the ways in which we can sometimes fill in the blanks to reconstruct memories. The title is inspired by the now-extinct Karankawa Indians whose history worked in omissions. Taking this concept of mythologizing memories, Rocha writes about the burdens and desires  in life. The book won an AWP Donald Hall Prize for Poetry and a Society of Midland Authors Award.

Buy it here.

“The Pink Box” by Yesenia Montilla

Instagram @jessiepoet144

Afro-Caribbean poet Yesenia Montilla’s collection alludes to “the pink box” throughout which is meant to guide the reader through the sensitive subject matter. As the poems progress, it becomes apparent the box is meant to be a vessel through which to discuss the commodification of art made by women and the myths surrounding female artists. The topics she discusses include food, family, race, NYC city life, addiction, and pop culture.

Buy it here.

“Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths” by Elizabeth Acevedo

Instagram @indigonerdFollow

Dominican poet Elizabeth Acevedo’s first poetry collection brings together folklore poetry centering around mythological, historical, gendered, and geographic experiences of a first generation American woman. Alluding to how some exist as “beastly” beings, Acevedo’s characters travel from the Dominican Republic to New York City. This 32-page chapbook is full of homages to Acevedo’s roots, family, and body positivity all in her characteristic passionate and eloquent style.

Buy it here.

“Landscape with Headless Mama” by Jennifer Givhan

Instagram @springeralexis

Mexican-American poet Jennifer Givhan’s award-winning collection, “Landscape with Headless Mama” illustrates what it’s like being a mother battling mental illness. Givhan describes the book as a “surreal survival guide” and incorporates folklore  and Latin American fine art. It views motherhood through the lens of cultural and familial myths incorporating surrealism and magical realism to weave together an achingly honest depiction of motherhood.

Buy it here.

Read: These 13 Books On Self-Care Will Help You Start the New Year Right

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Latina Reads: Puerto Rican Author Lilliam Rivera Discusses Upcoming YA Latinx Feminist Novel

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Latina Reads: Puerto Rican Author Lilliam Rivera Discusses Upcoming YA Latinx Feminist Novel

Lilliam Rivera has written two novels featuring strong Latinx female characters including her latest Dealing in Dreams. The Puerto Rican YA author released The Education of Margot Sanchez in 2017, a romantic coming of age story set in South Bronx that explored family dysfunction and the importance of being true to yourself. Born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, Rivera penned the ode to her hometown after relocating to Los Angeles. The book was nominated for the 2017 Best Fiction for Young Adult Fiction by the Young Adult Library Services Association and Rivera has also been awarded fellowships from PEN Center USA, A Room Of Her Own Foundation, and received a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation and the Speculative Literature Foundation.

In Dealing in Dreams, Rivera takes readers on the kind of fantasy adventure she imagines her teenage self would’ve wanted to read. The feminist dystopic novel is clearly influenced by Latinx culture following the adventures of sixteen-year-old Nalah and her all-girl crew Las Mal Criadas and her dreams of escaping Mega City to the exclusive Mega Towers. Read on to learn about the strong Latinx women in the book, why she chose to portray toxic femininity, and how immigration came into play. The book will be out March 5 and she’ll be talking at bookstores throughout the U.S.

The story focuses on an all-girl crew, can you tell me more about Las Mal Criadas and how you developed these characters?

Nalah is the sixteen-year-old leader of Las Mal Criadas, an all-girl crew who patrol the streets of Mega City. They are notoriously fierce but Nalah is wary of the violent life. She believes the way off the streets is securing a home in the exclusive Mega Towers where her leader Déesse lives. She’ll do anything to reach that goal. I wrote a draft of Dealing In Dreams six years ago and Nalah came to me first. I had just given birth to my second daughter and there were people, mostly women, who remarked how my dream of being a published author would have to be placed on hold. Rage can be a great incentive for generating art. I refuse to be pigeonholed. I wrote this draft while taking care of a newborn and I put it away for six years, workshopping a chapter here and there, until a year ago when I returned to the manuscript and still felt its relevance.

Can you describe Mega City and the Mega Towers and their significance in the story?

@lilliamr / Instagram

I based the concept of the Mega Towers on the housing projects I grew up in the South Bronx. The Twin Park West Housing Projects is a U-shaped structure connected by three buildings. With the Bronx slowly being gentrified I could just imagine how these buildings will soon be so desirable for those in power. In Dealing In Dreams, the towers are the only structure that survived the Big Shake, a man-made disaster caused by drilling. The Mega Towers is where the elite live and it’s where Nalah believes she can secure a home for her crew if she plays by this society’s rules. There are a couple of hints that Mega City is the Bronx but only a person from there would discover those Easter eggs.

The book is being described as a feminist Latinx dystopia and The Outsiders meets Mad Max so suffice it to say it’s a fierce book, how would you describe it to someone who is unfamiliar with the genre? 

I would describe Dealing In Dreams as a young adult book about a girl who grew up in a violent world and must decide if that path is truly her only salvation to a better life.

There is a very clear Latinx influence in the city and characters, why was that important to you?

@lilliamr / Instagram

I grew up reading so many science fiction and fantasy novels (Ray Bradbury, George Orwell…) and didn’t see any of my people in them. Where were the Puerto Rican girls from the Bronx crushing monsters? The same holds true of current films. I love Star Wars and have watched it hundreds of times but how amazing is it that my kids get to see Oscar Isaac being a part of the Star Wars canon? The future I envision in my novels is very brown and very black, just like my upbringing. I want to write Latinx characters that are flawed and heroic, who fall in love and discover their voice.

This is your second time writing a teenage Latinx protagonist, why is it important to you to tell these stories through the lens of a Latina?

These are the type of stories I craved for when I was young, desperately trying to connect with protagonists in novels. I think there’s more than enough room in bookstores and libraries for different Latina stories.

You take toxic masculinity and flip it to women instead, what was your intent in doing this?

There’s this great image of activist Angela Peoples taken during the Women’s March. Angela holds up a sign that reads “Don’t Forget: White Women Voted for Trump.” I thought of that image when I was rewriting the novel. I also kept thinking of how our own people will gladly throw us under the bus in order to secure a place beside someone in power. Sometimes our own family are quick to lead us to destruction. I wanted to explore those two realities in Dealing In Dreams.

What are some of the main concepts you wanted to tackle when you wrote this book and why?

I was thinking of books I’ve read that inspired me as a young person such as Anthony Burgess A Clockwork Orange and S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. I was drawn to their violence and also to the idea of formed families. I wanted to explore this idea of blood family versus the family you create but I wanted to come from the point of view of a Latina.

The idea of finding a better home is a concept that’s all too real for many Latinx in the US, was it a conscious decision to have Nalah’s journey mirror the immigrant experience in a sense?

@lilliamr / Instagram

The quest for home is so rooted in my family’s history. My parents left Puerto Rico to find a better home in New York. Each decision they made, however hard, was made with the intention of providing us with the tools to succeed. Almost everyone who wants to enter the United States come with that hope. There’s an amazing painting by the artist Judithe Hernández titled “La Muerte De Los Inocentes” and it is of a child who clutches a ribbon that states: “We come but to dream.” I feel that painting really captures Nalah’s journey and the journey of so many who come to the U.S. searching for a better life.

There’s a lot of action in this book, what was it like writing those scenes featuring all women?

I had the best time writing those scenes! I think it’s so rare to see young women owning their strength on the page and not being afraid to use it. I love that my characters are unapologetic about it. I also didn’t want to give the reader a chance to rest, to think of putting the book down, so I tried to inject as much action as I could.

What do you want readers to take away from Dealing in Dreams?

I want readers to be transported to a place that looks at times familiar and completely new. I want Nalah, Truck, Nena and the rest of Las Mal Criadas to leave an imprint on the readers long after they read the last page.

Read: YA Writer Tehlor Kay Mejia’s Debut Fantasy Book is a Feminist Story of Forbidden Love and Oppression

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YA Writer Tehlor Kay Mejia’s Debut Fantasy Book is a Feminist Story of Forbidden Love and Oppression

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YA Writer Tehlor Kay Mejia’s Debut Fantasy Book is a Feminist Story of Forbidden Love and Oppression

Tehlor Kay Mejia, 32, is lighting up the young literature scene with her dystopian feminist debut “We Set the Dark on Fire“. The book already has a 4.07 rating on Good Reads and Cosmopolitan hailed it as one of the best YA books of this year so the hype is strong for this Latinx read. Mejia, who is Mexican-American and was born and raised in Oregon where she still lives, feels passionate about the representation of Latinx in the media and the oppression the community faces. Using fantasy as a way to explore these topics, she developed the novel about Dani Vargas, a top-student at the Medio School for Girls where they train them to either run their husband’s household or raise his children. Vargas’ paperwork is a lie her parents worked to attain for her to be in such a position of privilege and now she’s faced with forbidden love and a chance to help the resistance. She’s torn between following her heart or disappointing her parents and the sacrifices they made for her.

Mejia is a self-proclaimed bruja who has altars set up in her home and works with stones, crystals and herbs also included a little bit of herself in the story through tarot cards, used as a form of communication among the resistance. Her grounding forces include the ancestors she feels connected to that she says guide her through the stress of work, as well as her six-year-old daughter. She’s a big fan of Twitter to connect with fellow Latinx writers and building a community within the Latinx diaspora as well as talk about the issues Latinx face today, especially in the current political climate.

Read on to learn about how she developed Dani’s character, her own battles with privilege, and how the story is a commentary on the oppression and marginalization Latinas and queer Latinx face. “We Set the Dark on Fire” is out February 26. 

Can you tell me a little  bit about your background and how you got into writing?

I remember being really into stories from a really young age, but while the kids around me were kind of passively enjoying them I was always picking them apart, looking for what made them work and forming all these funny little kid opinions about how they could be better. When I got older, high school age and into my twenties, I realized the books I loved (mostly speculative fiction – fantasy and science fiction) never had characters I could truly relate to. I was always having to stretch to imagine myself in their lives, having their adventures, but I didn’t really believe I could write stories about people like me until I read “Gabi, A Girl in Pieces” by Isabel Quintero. Suddenly I could imagine it, and then there was no stopping me.

You’ve had your work published in anthologies, can you tell me about those stories and what that was like for you?

When I was approached to do “All Out: The No-Longer Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages”, I hadn’t yet sold my debut novel, so I was really nervous. I was by far the most inexperienced author on the project. My story for that collection, “Healing Rosa”, was one of the first short stories I’d ever written, and since it was a historical project it was really important to me to show that there has been joy in our cultures in other eras. That toil and struggle and oppression existed, as they do now, but that we’ve always been capable of finding joy within our circumstances. For the second project – “Toil & Trouble”, which is a Young Adult anthology with a witchcraft theme – I was more conscious of the theme, and the way most people would probably approach it as fantasy. Even though I’m a fantasy writer, so much of what ‘witchcraft’ means to me is pretty ordinary. It’s family altars and limpias and tarot as part of daily life. I really wanted to show as part of that group of stories that witchiness has been a daily expression of faith in our (and many other) cultures for generations, and that it’s not all flying brooms and magic wands. So that’s how “Starsong” – a story about a social media obsessed teen bruja living in southern California – came to be.

Why did you decide to go into YA fantasy lit?

Fantasy has always been what I loved to read, I’ve been fascinated for as long as I can remember by the ways authors use world-building as a metaphor and a window into the truth of our experiences. I didn’t settle on YA until later, when I realized how sorely our communities were lacking stories that we could relate to, and how much that had shaped me as a reader and a writer. There’s still this toxic stereotype in so much of this country that Latinx kids are less interested in reading than their white peers, and I really feel so much of that is due to the historical lack of representation in children’s literature – and of course a lot of it is also just plain old stereotyping and prejudice. There are so many amazing Latinx authors working so hard in kid-lit to correct these wrongs, and I’m really grateful to get to join in that fight this year.

 What inspired you to develop “We Set the Dark on Fire”?

I’ve always been interested in the roles women are reduced to in societies, currently, throughout history, and across various cultural and national divides. The one thing that seems to remain consistent is our obsession as a society with women as one of two things: Beautiful and soft and nurturing – which comes with a connotation of being weak, or driven and ambitious and powerful – which so often strips us of our femininity in the eyes of the world. I feel that the more intersectional, or the further from the default, we are as women, the more obsessed society comes with classifying or categorizing us. I wanted to explore, using a fantasy world as the backdrop, what it looks like when women are forced into those roles by law, what happens when they refuse to be confined by them, and the effect on patriarchal, oppressive societies when they reject those roles.

 What was the writing process like?

Long! I wrote the first draft of this book – which was very different – over three years ago. I’m a little non-traditional as I didn’t go to college for writing (or at all…), so a lot of what I’ve learned about the process has happened thanks to generous people in this industry (agents, other authors, editors, etc) being willing to give me feedback. There was a lot of writing, and rewriting, and learning, and growing, but I’m grateful to have found people along the way that believe in the story and were willing to help me get it there. My process has changed a lot for subsequent books, but it definitely continues to be inspired by my growing anger over the state of the world and the treatment of marginalized people in it.

 What were some of the challenges in writing your debut novel? What has been the greatest reward so far?

The challenges, for me, have been mostly internal. Do I have the skill to tell this story? Will anyone want to hear it when I do? I’m a third generation Latina, and a biracial woman, so a lot of it has been coming to terms with that privilege, being honest as I reflect it – and the process of learning how to use it for good – on the page. The greatest reward by far has been hearing from Latina readers who connected with the story and saw themselves in the main character and her family. Of course that’s the hope when you write who you are and what you love, but I couldn’t have possibly predicted how amazing it would feel when it actually happened.

Can you describe Dani Vargas? How did you develop her character?

Dani is incredibly ambitious, and she really applies herself to any task she’s given. She has a really strong sense of duty to her parents for the sacrifices they’ve made to give her the life she has, even while sometimes she wonders if it’s the right life for her. Innately, she’s a girl who has a strong sense of what’s right. For her whole life she’s been told one thing is right, and when that view is questioned she’s very mixed up. But she has that strong internal compass that eventually guides her to make the right choice even when it’s incredibly difficult and at odds with what she was raised to do.There’s a lot of me in Dani, definitely, but as the story grew I wanted to explore that sense of duty in so many Latinx families, the intense desire to do right by our parents and make them proud, but also the complications that can arise when what they want is outdated or old fashioned and we have to grow up and make our own choices about what’s right.

 What made you choose a Latina heroine?

I thought for a long time that if I was going to write in this industry I’d have to erase parts of myself. That people wouldn’t respond to the characters I’d always longed to see in a book. Choosing a Latina heroine – and a queer one, specifically – meant a lot of giving up expectations. Just choosing to be brave and hope that people responded to it.

 What do you hope readers get out of this book?         

It’s so complicated, because as an author there are so many things I hope people notice, or pick up on, or appreciate about the book. But at the end of the day, I hope it’s clear that I wrote it as a love letter to queer Latina girls who refuse to allow the world to box them in. I hope those girls find it, and love it, and find whatever they need to in it. That’s my dream for the book.

It’s described as a feminist novel about family and freedom, how did decide what values you’d promote in this book as a POC?

That definitely comes back to privilege again, for me. There were a lot of things I had to say about immigration, and homophobia, and the humanizing or dehumanizing of POC in this world. But, again, I have a lot of privilege as a white/passing Latina from a mixed background, and there are lots of people telling those stories from a more authentic place than I could.

What I felt like I wanted to explore was the idea of your family making sacrifices for you to have a better life, which is woven all throughout my personal history. I wanted to show how sometimes that “better life” and all the privileges associated with it can sometimes distance you from feeling like you belong in your own world, and what to do when you come to terms with the fact that those sacrifices gave you privilege. The duty you feel to the people who gave you that life, even while you’re not sure where you fit in it. Do you embrace it, and erase pieces of yourself to fit in? Or do you find ways to weaponize the privilege and use it to fight back against the people wielding it against your community?

Did you always envision it as a duology? What can we expect in book two?

Yes! It’s always been intended to be two parts. There’s not a lot I can say about the sequel without giving anything away about the first book, but I will say that while “We Set the Dark on Fire” has a pretty straightforward government vs. the resistance theme, the sequel take is to the outer island and deeper into the rebellion. It explores what a resistance really is, and how harmful power structures and patriarchal values can be found even in spaces that appear to be radical.

How would you describe the novel to someone who is skeptical about reading YA fantasy?

I’d say that YA fantasy is one of the most interesting, fierce, powerful things happening in literature right now, and they’re missing out on way more than just my book if they’re skeptical of it  But also that even though it’s a fantasy, there really are a lot of things about it that are inspired by this world, about the struggles that are mounting daily for immigrants and marginalized groups under this administration, and that if you’re political and interested and angry about those things there is probably something for you in this book.

 Did you draw inspiration from other novels for your debut? If so, which?

Yes, absolutely. I mentioned Isabel Quintero before, but her book “Gabi, A Girl in Pieces” showed me that there was room for mixed up kids that looked and felt like me in literature. This book wouldn’t exist without her. For prose, there’s hardly anyone better right now than Anna-Marie McLemore, who’s taking our stories and making them these dark, whimsical fairytales. Zoraida Córdova’s “Labyrinth Lost” was the first time I saw a fantasy with a Latina MC, which was really revolutionary and inspiring as I was writing this book.  Finally, Sabaa Tahir’s Ember Quartet is some of the most incredible, political, fast-paced revolutionary fantasy out there right now, and I’ve always been so inspired by her books and just her as a WoC kicking ass in this industry.

 How do you feel about being a POC in the literary world?

As I’ve said, I do operate with a lot of privilege in POC circles because of colorism and a whole bevy of other toxic structures that uplift whiteness and proximity to whiteness. Of course, there are struggles unique to being who I am and writing what I write, and there have been hard times, and frustrating times. But I try to mostly focus on using the toxic structures and the places they benefit me to call them out, and to know when to step back, and to hopefully remind publishing whenever possible that cherry-picking a few token POC that will be palatable to a white audience isn’t nearly radical enough.

 Lastly, what do you have in store for the future?

The sequel will be out next year, which is a busy one for me. I also have a new Middle Grade series starting with the Rick Riordan Presents imprint in May of next year. The book is called “Paola Santiago and the Drowned Palace” and it’s based on the myth of La Llorona featuring a STEM obsessed 12-year-old Latina.  And lastly, I have co-written a magical realism YA novel called “Meteor”, which I was lucky enough to work on with the supremely talented Anna-Marie McLemore, out in August of next year.


Read: 13 Latina Fantasy Books For the Sci-Fi Lover in Your Life

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